When you’re sailing you should have three specific kinds of knives onboard the boat – a straight-blade, a folding-blade and an emergency cutter. The sharpness of the knife is the main consideration for all three kinds. Next in importance is its wear-ability, whether it can be safely worn in all conditions, yet be easily available when needed. The functionality of the knife is measured by its designated use. One must determine whether a pointed five inch blade, that’s as sharp as a razor, is needed or whether a safer blade, a multipurpose knife is better in extreme conditions.
When considering the construction of a blade, the quality and type of steel is the most important factor. Most blades today are made of steel alloys, mainly iron alloyed with other unique elements. Carbon is used for strength and chromium is best for making sure the knife is protected against corrosion. For sailing races, short-blade knives are recommended as they’re made of a harder alloy which allows them to stay sharper longer. Knives can be treated with certain elements or be polished in ways that make them stronger and/or more resistant to corroding. These various elements and the complexity of treatments will factor in to the cost of the knife.
When the blade is serrated this edge acts the same way the teeth of a saw acts when cutting. The serrated blade is able to rip through a high-tech rope, almost any strong fabric and even a nylon tether. A knife that has a blade which is partly serrated, along the base of the blade, and a tip that has a straight edge is very useful when swiping or cutting. In order to sharpen and maintain a serrated knife you need to be patient as it takes a long time to sharpen and polish each serration separately.
A knife with a blunt tip is made for safety. When the tip is sharply pointed, it can be dangerous when waters are rough. Because of this youth sailors avoid using them onboard. Using a blunt tip knife is smart when lots of people need to handle it or if you have objects and materials on the boat that can be easily cut by accident, like a sail or an inflatable PFD.
When you only have one hand available, a folding knife which has a lock mechanism to keep it open when you need to, is very handy on a boat. There are so many times when you need to use one hand to steady yourself, but you need to cut something with the other. There are lots of choices for a one-handed folding knife with a locking mechanism, but look for one that can be attached to your gear, something with a belt attachment, a strong clip or eye feature. You’ve also got to have a lanyard.
When choosing a knife you must think about where you’re going to carry it. Will it be carried outside your gear or do you have a pocket for it? If you’re going to put it in the pocket of your pants or your spray-top, make sure it fits properly and is easily retrieved when needed. If you’re planning on clipping it to your belt, it can’t be popping off when you sit down.